martes, 22 de junio de 2010

Another Part Of The Wood by Beryl Bainbridge

Another Part Of The Wood by Beryl Bainbridge first appeared in 1968. It was a significant year. The book’s vintage shows through via passing reference to recognisable ephemera. Characters rejoice in wearing flared trousers, for instance, and remark when P J Proby sings on the car radio. Quaint, wasn’t it?

There’s a holiday retreat in the north Wales hills. There are some cabins in the wood. They offer what would sound like very basic accommodation in today’s terms. But back in the 1960s, when foreign package holidays were still not the norm and no more likely encountered than a week in a caravan at Flamborough, the holiday-makers in the book no doubt looked forward to the experience. It was then, as now, a trip back to nature.

Beryl Bainbridge’s forté is the presentation and juxtaposition of characters. In many ways, the discovery of their relationships is the plot. So it does not help the prospective reader if I give a detailed description of them in a review. But a cursory glance at them reveals how, after more than forty years, their identities and their concerns have remained remarkably modern.

There’s a couple of families. There’s marriage and not marriage. There are children, both vulnerable and exploitative. There are flashbacks to a wartime experience that still makes everyday life hard to bear long before the term “post-combat stress disorder” had passed a campaigner’s lips. There is both pride and fear wrapped together. There are others who can’t cope with who they are. Someone is overweight. How modern can you get? Someone else stammers when over-wrought. There is someone who is easily led, and someone who wants to lead. There are people getting away from it all, and other who actively want to seek out experience. There are those who regard the rural area as a threat because of its lack of urban familiarity, and then there are those for whom it is a liberation. While a family argues over a game of Monopoly, someone almost burns down the real estate. There’s even more going on under the surface.

A contemporary reader might find the obvious lack of linear plot somewhat confusing. Reading Beryl Bainbridge is a bit like sitting on the sea. Waves come with regularity. They are all different, but eventually a pattern emerges. And it’s a pattern where all the usual – and remarkable – human traits can be found. The final act may be over-played, but the experience is lasting, just as long as it lasts. It’s a bit like life, actually.

View this book on amazon
Another Part of the Wood (Penguin Decades)

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